A-League: Melbourne Victory chasing championship

Having finished bottom of the A-League last season, the resurgent Melbourne Victory can smell championship success.Most A-League clubs would be satisfied with transforming themselves from wooden spooners to premiership contenders and FFA Cup winners in the space of a season – but not Melbourne Victory.The resurgence of the Victory – who finished bottom of the table last season – under super coach Tony Popovic has been remarkable.Not only did the Victory lift the FFA Cup in February, the Melbourne club finished the regular A-League season with a 15-match undefeated streak.The superb run of form resulted in the Victory placing second on the ladder, just a point adrift of premiers Melbourne City.The Victory’s superb current form, plus the agony of coming so close to upstaging City in the race for the Premier’s Plate, has Popovic’s men primed and determined to win the A-League championship by conquering all before them in the A-League finals series.“There would have been a lot of doubters thinking we wouldn’t be where we are but we all had a lot of confidence from day one once we had the squad and the coaching staff in,” Victory captain Josh Brillante said from Wednesday’s finals launch in Melbourne.“We’re not surprised where we are. Our standards are set so high and the bar’s so high that we’re always wanting more.“Winning the championship would be a great achievement and reward for all the hard work we’ve put in this season, and we definitely think it’s very achievable.“We’re going into this finals series very excited.”As do Melbourne City, who beat Wellington Phoenix 2-1 last Monday night to win the premiership.City captain Scott Jamieson warned the rest of the top six that his side was better placed than last season in its bid to clinch the premiership-championship double for the second successive year.“We were missing our Socceroos players for last year’s finals series and we had key injuries to (then City attacker) Craig Noone and Andrew Nabbout,” Jamieson said.“But in saying that, other teams will also have their Socceroos this season so it’s an even keel.“There still another mountain to climb in this finals series with five other teams looking to win it and everything to play for.”Courtesy of their respective first and second-placed finishes on the ladder, City and the Victory have the opening weekend of the finals off.The series kicks off on Saturday night when Victoria’s other top-six team, Western United, hosts Wellington Phoenix in an elimination final at AAMI Park.In Sunday’s elimination final, Adelaide United meets Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium.Australian Professional Leagues CEO Danny Townsend said: “The race to the Premier’s Plate kept us gripped until the final round of the regular season, and we look forward to seeing more of the best of the A-League over the next two and a half weeks.”Originally published as Melbourne Victory eyeing A-League title to complete transformation from wooden spooners to champions